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Monday, 15 February 2016

Back in with a shout

Corner turned thanks to Dat Guy?

It makes a refreshing change to be writing something in a positive frame of mind. The sixty seconds or so following Danny Welbeck's last-gasp winner was something that perfectly sums up the reason we go to football matches. I've watched replays of it over and over again simply to watch the supporters in the stand going absolutely mental, just like I was in the East Upper. At moments like that the people who sit next to you every week, whose names you might not even know, become family. You're grabbing each other, jumping on each other, hugging each other. It's the feeling you can't explain, but you spend your life trying to explain it. For that minute or so there is literally nothing else in the World other than Arsenal. If you could bottle that incredible feeling of uncontrolled joy you would be richer than Bill Gates. 
If Arsenal go on to win the Premier League (which is still an incredibly long shot given our fixtures still to play) then Danny Welbeck's flicked header, from the most perfectly delivered Mesut Ozil free-kick, is the moment on which our season turned for the better. The fans stuck with the team throughout yesterday, as we have all season in fairness, conscious of the effort the players were making and we all got our rewards in the 94th minute. 
The game situation turned on the red card. Had Leicester kept eleven players on the pitch then we might well not have scored two goals, or possibly even one. However, to suggest the red card was harsh is nonsense. The fact is that Simpson is one of three Leicester players who should have walked on the day. Taken in isolation you could say his first booking was harsh, but the referee had let so much go from their players without taking proper action that Simpson paid the price for being the next man in line when Atkinson finally got his card out. Drinkwater had somehow avoided a yellow in the first-half, was warned a second time when Kante got his booking, and should have seen a straight red-card for a truly heinous lunge at the shins of a very fortunate Aaron Ramsey - had Ramsey had his foot planted then he would have had a leg shattered again. Wasilewski should have also been sent-off for his forearm smash to the face of Nacho Monreal that led to the winning goal - now that really is justice.
The penalty, as TV has shown, was down to Vardy deliberately running in to Monreal. It was right below me on the pitch and I wasn't sure. Vardy's spectacular fall was unconvincing. Having seen it on TV it really is "buying" a decision. Had the referee given a clear free-kick to Arsenal on the edge of the Leicester penalty-area it would never have happened, but Atkinson was as bad as ever. Cretins like Tim Sherwood on Match Of The Day say Vardy was "clever" but it is actually cheating. Thierry Henry apparently also said it was a penalty but he has taken the MUTV shilling at Sky. If Luis Suarez did that (and he did quite often) he would be held up as a diver. Vardy, of course, is English and such a noble race would never stoop to cheating. It was very similar to the penalty Robert Pires "won" against Portsmouth in 2003 and he was forever after labelled as a diver. Bobby was French, and we all know what cheats these foreigners are, coming here and ruining our beautiful game. I can't wait for the media outrage when someone does what Vardy did against England at Euro 2016.
The injury to Koscielny looked like it might be the final nail in the Arsenal coffin but Calum Chambers was outstanding when he came on. He commanded the defence in the air (take note Mertesacker) and was positionally correct at all times. I have often criticised Chambers but he was immense yesterday. Immense is also the word I would use to describe the performance of Olivier Giroud. I was pleased when Match Of The Day also pointed out his contribution last night. Against two of the most physically strong centre-backs in the Premier League I feared Giroud would be unable to get in to the game. In the first minute he won a header and held the ball up brilliantly under pressure from Huth and Morgan and he kept that up all game. He made some great runs to stretch the play, especially in the first-half, and provided a great focal point for the Arsenal team. His contribution to Theo Walcott's brilliantly taken equaliser should not be overlooked either - it was a delicious nod down in to Theo's path.
I rarely give Arsene Wenger credit. I usually sit here and point out the fact that he is totally inflexible in his approach. When Danny Welbeck came on we went to having two central strikers for the first time since the 2014 FA Cup Final. This added even more pressure to the Leicester centre-backs and gave Giroud some help up there. His presence provided Giroud the yard of space he needed for what looked like a certain winning goal, only for Schmeichel to morph in to his father with one of the saves of the season (Cech had already added another contender of his own from Vardy's first-half header). Welbeck also missed a great chance with an air-kick from another Giroud lay-off in the six-yard box. For once, though, Wenger got it perfectly right and both his attacking substitutes got the goals to win the game.
Welbeck's goal gets us back in the hunt, nothing more. If someone had offered me that before kick-off I'd have been more than happy though. It's up to the players and the manager to produce the intensity of the final 20 minutes yesterday in every Premier League game until the end of the season. Welbeck is sometimes a streaky goal scorer and goes on little runs where he gets a good few goals in a limited number of games. In 1990-91 Kevin Campbell came to the fore at this time of the season and took us to the League Championship. If Welbeck stays fit, and gets on one of those runs, he could be the new Super Kev. Time will tell. For now we can enjoy yesterdays finish until we welcome Hull City in the FA Cup later in the week.

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